Wednesday, August 8, 2018

"We Sprang for the Gun Together, and Together We Caught It Up"

"The Guarded House."
By Arthur Stringer (1874-1950).
Illustrations by Gordon Mallett McCouch.
First appearance: Everybody's Magazine, August 1908.
Short story (14 pages, 3 illos).
Online at Hathi Trust (HERE).

     "The unseen enemy is the one we're always afraid of."

It seems like an easy target, a safe that even a novice yeggman would find a pushover, protected by a frail, fear-stricken old man; but first impressions can be misleading, 
because beyond the safe and the old man lie other, unforseen obstacles: a woman 
who won't stay dead, and a haunted painting, neither of which are willing to let go 
of a fortune without making a would-be thief pay for it—with his life . . .

Comments: Excessive descriptive passages can bog a story down. It's risky but, to establish the proper atmosphere, our author puts a lot of effort into scenic, almost photographic, description, which he successfully uses to create and sustain a certain mood and to ratchet up the suspense. This one fits comfortably in the spooky/rational approach to detective fiction employed so often by John Dickson Carr.

- John Arbuthnott Stringer can best be described not as a detective fiction author but a thriller writer, at which he normally excelled; see the usual sources for more about him: Wikipedia (HERE), the SFE (HERE), and the ISFDb (HERE).

- Our protagonist uses some terms that readers of a century ago would have had little 
trouble recognizing, but which could have some of us scratching our heads: "McAdoo" (HERE), "Harpagon" (HERE), and "dummy-chucker" (HERE).

- Previous encounters with Stringer on this weblog: (HERE), (HERE), (HERE), (HERE), and (HERE).

The bottom line:

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